Saturday, March 17, 2007

Just How Many Artichoke Hearts Can We Eat?

Everyday Italian with Giada De Laurentiis
Freeze It

Turkey and Artichoke Stuffed Shells with Arrabbiata Sauce
Strawberry Strata
Artichoke Pesto on Ciabatta

To get the recipes:
Click here

Stuffed shells are a great idea as a good pre-prepared dish for Giada's sister to take home. She can freeze them for an easy weekday meal. Giada's trick is to cook the shells for only 4 to 5 minutes, so that they hold up well in the freezer and oven.

I love the way she fights with the garlic cloves to get them off the head. That's a sign of fresh garlic. It should be pure white, very firm and you should have to struggle to loosen the cloves from whole bulb.

Giada tells us she likes the turkey filling, because it's healthier. But, hold have to know where that turkey is coming from. If it's ground with the skin and dark meat, you're no better off than using beef. I have to admit I really do discriminate against ground turkey. I guess it's because I'm all about flavor and if it doesn't add flavor, why bother? Use a super lean ground beef and you get a richer meaty flavor or just leave it out entirely. Another possibility is that if you like the texture meat gives the filling, try the wonderful Morningstar Farms Veggie Crumbles (it doesn't taste foul like alot of soy products - believe me.) I've punked my husband many a time and it's only after dinner that I've told him what it was. Of course, THEN he didn't like it....

Back to the shells, very cleverly, she cools them on a flat baking pan. (That's not in her recipe on the website. You're reading it here first, people.) That's an excellent technique whenever you need to cool something quickly - spread it on a dinner plate or baking sheet.

She makes the filling - chops the garlic for pancetta. To be honest, I like using a garlic press. I'd had one for years, but when I actually started using it, I began putting tons more garlic in my food. I have heard that if you remove the green center stalk, you don't get that nasty garlic aftertaste that some people complain about, so I do that most of the time now. Giada adds the garlic to the pan by putting it on the bed of pancetta, so that it won't come into contact with the bottom of the pan and burn. Very cagey, very clever. Now she's preparing to add something a bit unusual to the ground turkey - artichoke hearts.

Gi is adding the eggs and ricott' to the filling. And here's another reason I don't like ground turkey. IT LOOKS GREY. Finishes adding the parm, herbs and salt and pepper. It looks good. She points out that all the fillings should be at room temperature.

Ok, now we're moving. The arrabbiata sauce gets ladled onto the bottom of the dish (plus she's doing a secret dish that she's making for Sissie to take home.) GOOD point here: with the sauce on the bottom, the shells won't stick. And I always did it just because it tasted good. Stuffs the shells right up to the top. Good girl. She places them in the dish and tops with more sauce and shredded cheese. They groove in a 400 deg oven for 20 minutes if you're cooking them now. 60 minutes if frozen.

Ok, I like something else she's done here. She didn't cover the dish with foil. I have no patience when sauced pasta recipes call for a tight covering of foil. It takes way too long for the dish to cook like that. Be brazen, be bold, leave the foil for lining cookie sheets and cook this dish UNCOVERED. Time will tell if you need a bit of foil toward the end to stop the browning. But my philosophy is to get the dish HOT first and worry about the rest later. Apparently Giada agrees...this time anyway...see Strata recipe next.

Giada's Strawberry Strata is truly an original. I must say I have NEVER come across a sweet dessert Strata, although the truth is they're not really any different in concept from a bread pudding. Still I'm impressed.

Ricotta and cream cheese - room temperature is a must - are mixed together. Her also-beautiful sister is doing the honors, beating everything by hand. 8 eggs are going in. I'm not getting why this can't all be thrown into the KitchenAid, while the striking sibs have a cocktail or at least an espresso. So be it. Honey, strawberries and cinnamon are added to the custard. Gia' gives an excellent tip to a warm the honey first, to make the mixing in easier. It's also easier to measure that way.

Giada is using a ciabatta for the Strata. (Try saying THAT 5 times fast). Cut off the ends and much of the crust, so the bread can absord the custard more easily. Wow, she's giving quite a number of good tips today. Push the bread cubes into custard. Pour into baking dish. Cover with foil. WAIT, you're saying. "Foil? I thought that was verboten." No, no, no, my little cuisiniers, that's for PASTA dishes. THIS is a delicate custard that must not have its creamy richness disturbed by too much heat. Go on, it's ok, cover it with foil.

She tells us to cook it at 350 deg for 45 minutes and then remove the foil and cook at 400 for 30 to 35 minutes. Go ahead and do that. But honestly and truly, I have to admit I would probably not bother with that two-tiered cooking temp. A cursory perusal of other strata and bread pudding recipes says to cook for about 45 minutes, but at 350 degrees and UNCOVERED. What's the right thing here? It probably doesn't much matter as long as you keep an eye on it. Try it, uncovered, at 350 degrees. Start checking it after 40 minutes and if it's browning too quickly, cover it with some foil.

Ok, now, things really get interesting. Listen to this, a chick fight almost breaks out. Those college boys are probably at the edge of their seats waiting to see if it's going to get to the mud-ring stage of dispute. Giada takes out the shells and serves Sis and herself each a bowl. Just as they’re about to take a bite, Sister says Buon Appetit. Giada looks at her with disbelief and says Buon Appetito! With venom dripping from her lips, she explains to the viewers that her sister’s married to a FRENCHMAN (I would like to have seen the behind-the-scene machinations before that wedding) and she really must go back to speaking Italian. There’s a commercial break during which must have been a real catfight…

To finish out the menu, she’s preparing an artichoke pesto with ciabatta to serve it on. Olive-oil up both sides of ciabatta. She grills it in a stove top grill pan. I like that idea. For the pesto, artichokes and nuts go into a processor with lemon zest and juice. Finish with olive oil. Do you like artichokes in pesto? Frankly, I think they’re rather nasty. I like real artichokes that you have to work at to get to the prize inside. I like them in salads. But I don’t like them in mushy things like those warm dips that really look like someone had a bad cold. Ok, G tells us we can freeze this WITHOUT the parmesan cheese (add after) in ice cube trays. Gosh, I haven’t done that since the 20th century. I prefer Craig’s trick of open freezing blobs of whatever it is and then packing into bags.

Menu 6.75 out of 10

It just wasn’t completely to my liking, but I can leave out the artichoke hearts and so can you.

Giada 10 out of 10 Always likable, but the prospect of babe on babe action really kept me on the edge of my seat.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Its bread pudding!